Top 6 Easy-to-grow Hydroponic Plants (Expert Recommendations)

“What plants are the simplest to grow for hydroponic beginners?” is one of the most often asked topics.

We fully understand that you want to have some early success to boost your interest and confidence. So the 6 simplest plants for hydroponic beginners with expert recommendations are for you.

  1. Spinach
  2. Microgreens
  3. Arugula
  4. Kale
  5. Basil
  6. Lettuce

Ahmed from Garden Apprentice

Spinach

Spinach is one of the top foods that are high in iron. However, it takes 3 weeks for Spinach seeds to germinate.

The best practice is to sow a few seeds into each plug. Then, use a rapid rooter plug to ensure you get seedlings in each plug. If you got more than one seedling in each plug, pick the healthiest seedling and sow the others.

The best hydroponic system for growing Spinach is NFT. But you can also use raft and ebb systems as well.

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Spinach is a fantastic crop. It can tolerate lower temperatures than lettuce. Keep the temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees. And avoid rising it above 70 degrees, or your plants will blot.

Light won’t be an issue here as Spinach light requirements are low as well. 10 – 14 hours of light a day should be enough to provide optimal light conditions. Even under low light, spinach can survive and grow well.

The pH level for growing is 5.5 to 6.5. Use fertilizers high in nitrogen to push spinach to grow leaves.

After all, this is what we harvest spinach for. You can start harvesting Spinach leaves after 30 to 45 days of sowing seeds. After that, each time you cut a piece, it will grow more to harvest again.

Lu Hernandez from EasyIndoorGreens.com

Microgreens

Microgreens are great for hydroponics. You don’t have to wait long to harvest super-nutritious greens that can work as a garnish and enhance the flavor of your dish.

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I say microgreens are great to grow in a soilless system since they don’t need much – only water and oxygen. Besides, they are only allowed to grow a few inches before they are harvested.

Chris Cook from Happy Hydro Farm

Without soil, hydroponic plants rely on a mix of water and nutrients to grow. This mixture is known as a nutrient solution.

As a hydroponic gardener, you’re in control of the pH level and nutrient strength your plants receive. However, if you’re new to hydroponic gardening, this can be intimidating.

With that in mind, I recommend four plants to beginners. They are arugula and kale. Both of them can grow and thrive in the same hydroponic system together.

With overlapping pH tolerance, nutrient requirements, and lighting needs, you can find a balance that will keep each plant happy and healthy.

A pH level of 6.0-6.5 will keep each of these plants healthy. You can easily maintain this range with simple pH adjusting tools, but an electronic pH meter will make things even more accessible.

These are light-loving plants. Provide them with 12-14 hours of light each day, and they’ll thank you with a big green leafy bounty.

If you’re using artificial lighting, pay attention to how the plants react to the light. If they’re starting to look a little burned, raise the light. If they’re getting long and leggy, lower the light.

Arugula

Arugula is an easy-growing plant. It will do well in a wide pH range and prefers weaker nutrient solutions. Nutrient strengths with an EC of 1.0-1.2mS will keep arugula happy.

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Expect arugula seeds to take 7-10 days to germinate. Therefore, arugula should be ready to harvest within 30 days.

Kale

Kale is another easy hydroponic plant. Growing out of direct light, it makes the perfect boundary crop.

Kale seeds usually germinate within 10 days. Therefore, you can start picking baby kale leaves in as little as 30 days and expect to have fully mature leaves 60 days after planting.

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You can harvest kale a single leaf at a time. To do this, grab a kale leaf close to the base, pull it down, and out to snap the leaf off without harming the rest of the plant.

Patricia from eatmorehealthyfood.com

Basil

My favorite and the best hydroponic plant is basil. With regular/soil-based gardening, I had so many difficulties with getting watering right.

I have to admit that I was never a good gardener before discovering hydroponics, but I was really ashamed to kill every little basil pot while the ones of my mom were thriving.

With hydroponics, my basil is exploding, and it’s so convenient always to have an abundance of basil at hand for pestos, salads, and all the other delicious dishes!

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Speaking to fellow hydroponic gardeners, it seems to grow in all growing zones, indoors and outdoors. I also find that the flavor of my hydroponic basil is much more intense than the one of my mum’s growing in soil.

All other plants seem to attract all sorts of insects, but my basil so far never gave me a headache when it comes to aphids or whiteflies. You can keep one single plant in one growing pot.

The plant becomes nice and bushy by simply clipping the branches off exactly above where two leaves are growing. You’ll always have a never-ending supply of fresh, aromatic basil at hand in as little as 3 months from seed to full-grown plant.

Hannah from Ecopeanut.com

Lettuce

Lettuce grows well in a hydroponic system but not all variety. For instance, iceberg lettuce is not recommended because of its slow maturity rate, and not to mention it takes a lot of space.

On the other hand, the Oakleaf lettuce variety is an excellent choice for beginner hydroponic gardeners because it consistently produces crops without the dreaded tipburn.

When growing lettuce in water, it’s necessary to provide the same macro and micronutrients as you would when growing in soil. You’ll supply these nutrients by adding soluble fertilizer to the water.

You have two options – granular or liquid fertilizers. To measure that you have the right nutrient concentration or fertilizer strength, you’ll need to measure the electrical conductivity (EC).

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You can get this device together with pH probes. An EC test, however, won’t be able to provide you the individual nutrient level. Therefore, it is precious when assessing the nutrient levels during growth and if you need to amend the solution to hit the ideal or target level.

You’ll have to pay attention to the pH level as well – you should maintain the pH level between 5-6 (7 is a neutral pH level). There’s a misconception that you should just adjust the pH after or before mixing the nutrient solution.

However, that’s not the case. Instead, you’ll precious need to maintain pH level throughout the entire growth because certain fertilizers can either make the water more acidic or “basic.”

Ideally, you want to check every few weeks. You can conduct a pH water level test by using pH test strips.

Conclusion

Many plants thrive in hydroponic gardens, but I recommend starting with the easiest ones first because certain plants are more difficult to cultivate than others.

You can add more plants to your garden as you learn more about a plant’s nutritional requirements and the requirements of certain species.

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